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Gazprom-Media demands Echo of Moscow's board of directors to resign

February 15, 2012, 12:38 UTC+3
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On Tuesday, the Gazprom-Media holding, which is the main stockholder of the Echo of Moscow radio station, demanded for the board of directors of this popular liberal radio station to resign. The Echo of Moscow board of directors will be reshuffled on March 29. Echo of Moscow's editor in chief Alexei Venediktov will not be put on the board of directors, the staff of the radio station will be cut. The media argues of whether the pressure on the radio station is exercised because of the forthcoming presidential elections.

The highlight of Tuesday events was  a seemingly minor event, namely the early resignation of the two members of the Echo of Moscow  radio station in the heat of the presidential election campaign, Novye Izvestia writes.  Alexei Venediktov's statement became an information bomb when he announced that the Gazprom-Media Company demanded for the Echo of Moscow's board of directors to resign ahead of time and for the replacement of the independent directors to take place. Venediktov noted that he and his first deputy Vladimir Varfolomeyev decided to leave Echo of Moscow's board of directors. Some time later Venediktov decided to specify that his resignation as the editor-in-chief is not on the agenda yet. He also recalled that it is the editor-in-chief rather than the board of directors, who is in charge of the editorial policy, thus making it clear that the editorial policy will not change.

The reporters of the radio station do not in full share creative optimism of their editor-in-chief, the newspaper notes. The annual meeting of stockholders was planned for June to replace the Echo of Moscow's board of directors as scheduled. The journalists of the radio station noted that the decision to do so ahead of time needs some explanation. They believe that Gazprom-Media responded this way because of the critical remarks about the top officials made on the radio station.

Gazprom-Media explained this step exclusively by the optimization of economic activity and claimed that the editorial policy of the radio station will not change, Rossiiskaya Gazeta writes. Gazprom-Media suggests Scho of Moscow's Director General Yuri Fedutinov should be put on the board of directors, and the posts of independent directors should be kept with their possible rotation. The holding has already nominated new candidates for the board of directors of the radio station. Meanwhile, the Gazprom-Media decision provoked an immediate response not only from the experts of the market, journalists, but also politicians of all stripes. They consider that the early replacement of the board of directors is caused by Scho of Moscow's editorial policy. In particular, it is caused by regular criticism levied on top officials at the radio station.

The plans of the Echo of Moscow stockholders to replace the board of directors stirred up an immediate response in political quarters, Kommersant daily notes. The founder of the Yabloko Party Grigory Yavlinsky called the forthcoming changes “a warning act, according to which Russian citizens can judge, what awaits them after the presidential elections.” An independent director of the Echo of Moscow radio station Yevgeny Yasin stated that independent media are about to be put under control. Meanwhile, the head of the United Russia faction in the State Duma Andrei Vorobyov said on Tuesday that it is “a managerial decision that has nothing in common with creative work.” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov linked the recent events with corporate changes, rather than criticism of Vladimir Putin.

The RBC daily interviewed editor-in-chief Venediktov, in which the latter noted that he will continue to manage the radio station, “using all the means that the law on mass media gives me.” In response to a question of whether he ponders over an opportunity to quit the post of the editor-in-chief after the recent events, Venediktov said, “No, I will not do so. I will die at this post.”


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